Temporal variation is a powerful source of selection on life history strategies and functional traits in natural populations. Theory predicts that the rate and predictability of fluctuations should favor distinct strategies, ranging from phenotypic plasticity to bet-hedging, which are likely to have important consequences for species distribution patterns and their responses to environmental change. To date, we have few empirical studies that test those predictions in natural systems, and little is known about how genetic, environmental, and developmental factors interact to define the “fluctuation niche” of species in temporally variable environments. In this study, we evaluated the effects of hydrological variability on fitness and functional trait variation in three closely related plant species in the genus Lasthenia that occupy different microhabitats within vernal pool landscapes. Using a controlled greenhouse experiment, we manipulated the mean and variability in hydrological conditions by growing plants at different depths with respect to a shared water table and manipulating the magnitude of stochastic fluctuations in the water table over time. We found that all species had similarly high relative fitness above the water table, but differed in their sensitivities to water table fluctuations. Specifically, the two species from vernal pools basins, where soil moisturemore »
- Award ID(s):
- Publication Date:
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Journal Name:
- Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
- Page Range or eLocation-ID:
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
More Like this
Two popular approaches for modeling social evolution, evolutionary game theory and quantitative genetics, ask complementary questions but are rarely integrated. Game theory focuses on evolutionary outcomes, with models solving for evolutionarily stable equilibria, whereas quantitative genetics provides insight into evolutionary processes, with models predicting short-term responses to selection. Here we draw parallels between evolutionary game theory and interacting phenotypes theory, which is a quantitative genetic framework for understanding social evolution. First, we show how any evolutionary game may be translated into two quantitative genetic selection gradients, nonsocial and social selection, which may be used to predict evolutionary change from a single round of the game. We show that synergistic fitness effects may alter predicted selection gradients, causing changes in magnitude and sign as the population mean evolves. Second, we show how evolutionary games involving plastic behavioral responses to partners can be modeled using indirect genetic effects, which describe how trait expression changes in response to genes in the social environment. We demonstrate that repeated social interactions in models of reciprocity generate indirect effects and conversely, that estimates of parameters from indirect genetic effect models may be used to predict the evolution of reciprocity. We argue that a pluralistic viewmore »
Evolutionary adaptation to temperature and climate depends on both the extent to which organisms experience spatial and temporal environmental variation (exposure) and how responsive they are to the environmental variation (sensitivity). Theoretical models and experiments suggesting substantial potential for thermal adaptation have largely omitted realistic environmental variation. Environmental variation can drive fluctuations in selection that slow adaptive evolution. We review how carefully filtering environmental conditions based on how organisms experience their environment and further considering organismal sensitivity can improve predictions of thermal adaptation. We contrast taxa differing in exposure and sensitivity. Plasticity can increase the rate of evolutionary adaptation in taxa exposed to pronounced environmental variation. However, forms of plasticity that severely limit exposure, such as behavioral thermoregulation and phenological shifts, can hinder thermal adaptation. Despite examples of rapid thermal adaptation, experimental studies often reveal evolutionary constraints. Further investigating these constraints and issues of timescale and thermal history are needed to predict evolutionary adaptation and, consequently, population persistence in changing and variable environments.
Fluctuating environmental conditions are ubiquitous in natural systems, and populations have evolved various strategies to cope with such fluctuations. The particular mechanisms that evolve profoundly influence subsequent evolutionary dynamics. One such mechanism is phenotypic plasticity, which is the ability of a single genotype to produce alternate phenotypes in an environmentally dependent context. Here, we use digital organisms (self-replicating computer programs) to investigate how adaptive phenotypic plasticity alters evolutionary dynamics and influences evolutionary outcomes in cyclically changing environments. Specifically, we examined the evolutionary histories of both plastic populations and non-plastic populations to ask: (1) Does adaptive plasticity promote or constrain evolutionary change? (2) Are plastic populations better able to evolve and then maintain novel traits? And (3), how does adaptive plasticity affect the potential for maladaptive alleles to accumulate in evolving genomes? We find that populations with adaptive phenotypic plasticity undergo less evolutionary change than non-plastic populations, which must rely on genetic variation from de novo mutations to continuously readapt to environmental fluctuations. Indeed, the non-plastic populations undergo more frequent selective sweeps and accumulate many more genetic changes. We find that the repeated selective sweeps in non-plastic populations drive the loss of beneficial traits and accumulation of maladaptive alleles, whereas phenotypicmore »
Small spaces, big impacts: contributions of micro-environmental variation to population persistence under climate changeAbdelaziz, Mohamed (Ed.)Abstract Individuals within natural populations can experience very different abiotic and biotic conditions across small spatial scales owing to microtopography and other micro-environmental gradients. Ecological and evolutionary studies often ignore the effects of micro-environment on plant population and community dynamics. Here, we explore the extent to which fine-grained variation in abiotic and biotic conditions contributes to within-population variation in trait expression and genetic diversity in natural plant populations. Furthermore, we consider whether benign microhabitats could buffer local populations of some plant species from abiotic stresses imposed by rapid anthropogenic climate change. If microrefugia sustain local populations and communities in the short term, other eco-evolutionary processes, such as gene flow and adaptation, could enhance population stability in the longer term. We caution, however, that local populations may still decline in size as they contract into rare microhabitats and microrefugia. We encourage future research that explicitly examines the role of the micro-environment in maintaining genetic variation within local populations, favouring the evolution of phenotypic plasticity at local scales and enhancing population persistence under global change.